In the lead up to the Plenary Council 2020 perhaps the most basic of questions must be asked. For example, will the Lord find any faith in Australia? In this brief article on Humanae Vitae the sentence that caught my eye was: “The role of contraception in the decline of faith is difficult to deny.” I think there are some real issues we need to reflect on, 50 years on from the release of Humanae Vitae, that may help the Church in Australia discern whether what we might want is in harmony with what God is actually asking of us.
HUMANAE VITAE AND THE CRISIS OF FAITH http://www.positionpapers.ie/2018/06/humanae-vitae-and-the-crisis-of-faith/
Written by:Fr Patrick O’Donohue
It is now half a century since the papal encyclical letter Humanae Vitae defended the dignity of matrimony and reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to contraception. By explaining the inherent connection between the unitive and the procreative qualities of sexual intercourse, Pope Paul VI addressed why the use of contraception is always wrong. He wrote that “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life” and that “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life.” The Pontiff also references previous magisterial teaching, including Casti Connubii which outlined the gravely sinful nature of all deliberately contraceptive acts.
From Humanae Vitae‘s publication, however, the very name of the encyclical became synonymous with its widespread rejection. At the same time as the crucifix was vanishing from altars and homes, so too did the self-sacrificial love it represents disappear from the lives of countless spouses. All this was reflective of the anthropocentric revolution of the 1960s which put man in the place of God as the sole arbiter of good and evil. Alongside this denial of the Church’s teaching authority, many married couples began to regulate the size of their family based on the opinions of the world rather than putting their trust in the Lord.
The good news is that, even after the clamour of this revolution, there is hope. It is never too late to change and, through the Sacrament of Penance, recover the supernatural meaning of marital love. Even in cases where it is too late to have more children, spouses can support younger couples in having larger families. Like Saint Paul, using the time spent against God as a stimulus for serving Him more totally.
Over the past fifty years the fruits of the contraceptive culture foreseen by the encyclical have become an unfortunate reality. Humanae Vitae’s predictions have been well documented, namely, marital infidelity, a lowering of moral standards and the intervention of public authorities in the responsibilities of husband and wife. But what the encyclical did not foresee was the devastating impact that the use of artificial methods of birth control would have on the faith of the baptised. What exactly is this relation between contraception and the crisis of faith through which we are now living?
The role of contraception in the decline of faith is difficult to deny. To be a Catholic is not only to have received baptism and self-identify as Catholic, but to accept what the Church has always taught regarding faith and morals. Love of God and neighbour is proven in action as well as in words. This connection between faith and morality reminds us of the maxim that if we do not live what we believe, we end up believing what we live. The Gospel is not to be accepted in fragmented pieces on one’s own terms. Accepting only the less difficult Commandments could never be the way of a Catholic.
Our Lord Jesus once said “No man can serve two masters.” So too, Catholics cannot serve both God and the spirit of the world. God never blesses those actions that go against the law He has written on every human heart. His plan encapsulates the whole human person, the whole family unit and the whole of society. Such is the depth of His love for us that He would never be satisfied with a mere partial response.
One of the privileges of priesthood is serving families who generously embrace God’s plan to have many children and who desire that the charity of Christ reigns in their homes. What an awe-inspiring mystery it is that married couples are called to cooperate with God’s creative plan for this world and the world to come. That God would create a soul to exist for all eternity through matrimony is a marvel. Someone once said the most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children. May this fiftieth anniversary bring about a rediscovery of the extraordinary blessings God has in store for those who pursue His plan for their families.
The world needs a renewed faithfulness to the immutable moral law, proclaimed through the infallible voice of the Church, so that the bond of husband and wife may be, once again, marked as well by faithfulness to one another and to the Author of life. Those who are open to “the God of the living” will always be open to the human life that He gives them, and in so doing they will find true life.
Fidelity requires being faithful!
Tenth Sunday B: The Gospel teaches clearly that our spiritual family takes precedence over our natural family. The spiritual life comes before all else. The readings spell out the priority of faith in our lives, the basis of which is openness to God’s Will—because we love God—as revealed to us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Fidelity to Jesus is paramount and love demands there is no sitting on the fence!
Let’s backtrack. With Adam and Eve, every choice, as long as it consisted of being faithful to what God asked of them, was a good choice. In being unfaithful they destroyed the original unity between human beings, God and creation. This sin destroyed their integrity as human beings which is why we suffer such weakness and uncertainty in our decision making.
But we also know the Good News that Christ has remedied their disobedience and is our remedy. Unfortunately, knowledge isn’t enough. To make Jesus the priority in our lives must not be just an abstract and intellectual proposition – that is no remedy. True belief requires doing. Fidelity requires being faithful!
Let me say that our faith in Jesus should be an affair of the heart. For example, if I were to choose to miss Mass (mortal sin) I should be sorry because I realise that I have let down my divine lover who yearns for my love. Missing Mass is really about infidelity due to a lack of love towards our spouse. This is heart wrenching, but it gets worse. We also cut ourselves off from each other and then the love we have for each other grows cold as well.
I suggest to you that our faith-relationship with Jesus is akin to the faith-relationship between spouses. This is a beautiful way of understanding what Christian faith means. The upside is that we know that Jesus will always be faithful. The downside is, through weakness and sin, we will sometimes stray from him (which is the same as being unfaithful to our natural spouses, although the consequences are rupturing our union with God rather than our husband/wife). In practice, sin is having no love for God in the decisions we make.
The Gospel also tackles inner division. Division within families is a sign of a division within our hearts. However, in our relationships we are called to a singleness of heart, meaning a yearning for what transcends what I want, and that which makes us one. What unites us as the family of God should be our priority.
Having reflected on the Word of God we are now ready to fully consider our priorities.
- In terms of priorities, are we at peace within ourselves or are our hearts torn between priorities that reflect our own selfishness?
- In terms of faith – do you love Jesus enough that your faith is paramount in your life?
- In terms of God’s Will – do you seek to do God’s Will above all else?
Of course, these priorities are interrelated. Just ask yourself, do you love Jesus enough to be faithful to him above all else?
This weekend we celebrate Corpus Christi. Additionally, we launch the Plenary Council 2020 in Australia at the parish level. What comes next?
June 10, 2018
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1GN 3:9-15
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself."
Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!"
The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me—
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it."
The LORD God then asked the woman,
"Why did you do such a thing?"
The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."
Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
"Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel."
Responsorial PsalmPS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
R. (7bc) With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption
and he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
Reading 22 COR 4:13—5:1
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore we speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
Therefore, we are not discouraged;
rather, although our outer self is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this momentary light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory
beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent,
should be destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Now the ruler of the world will be driven out, says the Lord;
and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus came home with his disciples.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, "He is out of his mind."
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said,
"He is possessed by Beelzebul,"
and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
"How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself
and is divided, he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder the house.
Amen, I say to you,
all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin."
For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
His mother and his brothers arrived.
Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
"Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you."
But he said to them in reply,
"Who are my mother and my brothers?"
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother."
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned…
Almost one hundred years ago the Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote The Second Coming. It is a strange nightmarish poem. It tells of events that are both seen and unseen, of an ominous elemental horror that is imminent, one that “slouches” from its centuries-old hibernation towards Bethlehem to be “born.”
Last Friday, May 25, 2018, the citizens of the Irish Republic voted to remove the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, Article 40.3.3. On a turnout of just over 64 percent of the electorate, 66.4 per cent voted for repeal of the Eight Amendment while 33.6 percent opposed it. This voting pattern, with minor variations, was consistent across the country.
In a moment of insight, following a referendum in 1983, the Eighth Amendment had been inserted into the constitution to safeguard the rights of the unborn. Through it, Ireland had effectively banned abortion. The decision to remove this constitutional safeguard now opens the door to legislation, which many suspect will usher in one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world. News of the speed with which the current Irish government wishes to enact the necessary legislation in favor of abortion is as telling as it is alarming.
The result of the referendum comes as no surprise. The political establishment—all the leaders of the various political parties, plus many within these parties, especially the opportunistic and the ambitious—mouthed platitudes about “doing the right thing.”
The media seemed especially in favor of repealing the Eighth Amendment. The State broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, like so many media outlets, went through the pretense of being a neutral forum for both sides to debate and put forward their arguments. The underlying hostility to the pro-life side could not be hidden though. The Irish Times, Ireland’s newspaper of record, also attempted to give column space to both sides, but it, too, seemed half-hearted in this. It was not just the paper’s editorial stance, which, given its liberal credentials, was always going to be pro-abortion, but rather the ways in which the pro-life case was portrayed in the newspaper’s pages. That portrayal was endlessly associated with religious imagery even though the pro-life campaign was a secular movement. Instead, a certain impression of Irish pro-lifers was deliberately constructed and then conveyed—of fanatically religious men telling women what to do with their bodies. It was a deliberate ploy. In reality, the pro-life campaign was fronted by women who were just as professional, independent, and articulate—perhaps more so—than their counterparts calling for repeal of the Eighth Amendment. This fact was, however, conveniently overlooked in media reports.
Of course, it was never going to be a fair fight. The intervention of Google and Facebookat a decisive moment in the referendum debate proved that. Since the Irish media effectively prevented the pro-life campaign from putting its argument across to voters, the pro-life message was heavily dependent on new media to reach that constituency. The crucial period for the intensification of its campaign was two weeks away from polling day. This was the very moment when Google and Facebook pulled the plug—banning in various ways advertising on the forthcoming referendum. The move came at a time when the pro-abortion side had been complaining hysterically of being out-gunned and out-witted on social media by pro-lifers, no doubt sensing their “Yes” campaign was faltering as the polls began to narrow. Momentum was now with the pro-life campaign. A pro-abortion source openly admitted that it was at this point that “pressure” was applied to the tech giants. In any event the “pulling of the plug” on pro-life Internet advertising was a devastating blow to the “No” campaign, thereby crippling its ability to reach voters directly.
Yet, the final polls, the weekend before the vote, showed the gap between “Yes” and “No” was still narrowing, but now not as fast to affect the result. Effectively, the momentum for life was lost. By then, the media blitz turned to the Irish voters living abroad who were considering returning home. This prompt from various quarters was not an impartial act to encourage the Irish democratic process but rather part of a strategic move by the “Yes” side that was banking on the Irish returning to vote for abortion. Virtually every story covered by Irish and international media outlets seemed to tell of a young female professional intent on flying home to Ireland to vote “Yes” so that she could be “proud” of her country, before doubtless turning round and getting on the first flight back to wherever she had flown in from.
Sometimes, during the last weeks, it seemed that the people of Ireland—some at least—had entered an alternate universe. An example of this was expressed in The Irish Timesfinal editorial about the referendum:
The Eighth Amendment describes a world that never existed—a place of moral absolutism, religious certainty, good and evil, black and white—and locks us into that illusion in perpetuity. To remove it is merely to reflect the world we live in.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that this is a “world” in which some now choose to live: where the death of a child is something to be “celebrated,” a sign of “progress,” a mark of “compassion.” In these past weeks, one looked on in dismay as this ancient Catholic nation exchanged its present for a future where a mother’s joy was transformed into a tormented look of guilt, a child’s smile into a funeral veil, a truth for a lie.
So let it be.
Ireland has chosen between life and death. Death it shall have. The fallacy that a liberal abortion regime solves anything will soon become apparent to Irish citizens. The mother’s pain and suffering from abortion shall still remain. The shame and trauma of having delivered an aborted child are not erased as easily as the pro-abortion campaigners make out when they blithely talk of a “medical procedure,” one seemingly as slight as having an ingrown toenail removed. Above all, in the coming days and years, what will haunt that land is the memory of the missing generations denied life by the stroke of a pen that in the hand of some became a scalpel.
Those who campaigned for abortion have got what they wanted: the advent of Irish abortion facilities. Ireland shall soon commence the same sad slide into the abyss as that of her neighbor Britain. The public money funnelled away from medicine in order to provide the tools and the means to administer death will not be insignificant. In spite of what politicians say, medical staff will be pressured into taking part in procedures contrary to the Hippocratic Oath. The idea of conscience, like the idea of the sanctity of life, will be yet another casualty at the hands of Irish abortionists and their fellow travelers. Eventually for some, abortion will become a convenience, despite all we have heard about “hard cases.” In particular, Down syndrome children and their families must view with dismay this vote for “compassion”: knowing that in Britain 90 percent of unborn children with Down syndrome never make it beyond the womb. And behind it all, the global industrial complex of abortion providers sit sharpening their implements with glee, as yet another market is opened to them by their friends in the Irish political establishment who no doubt will be rewarded with campaign contributions and appointments to positions in boardrooms of these multi-nationals.
Two years ago, the Irish state made great play of the 1916 Easter Rising. That Rising was a rebellion by a group of revolutionaries who tried to overthrow British rule in Ireland. At various state-sponsored commemorations, contemporary politicians talked of how these rebels had won for today’s Irish citizens the freedoms they enjoy, as well as the other things politicians say when trying to cover themselves in the mantle of past glories to offset their present deficiencies.
In 1916, hopelessly outnumbered, the Irish rebels hoisted a new flag as they proclaimed the Irish Republic. They also read out a proclamation, one that is framed on walls of Irish homes up and down the land. It says the following:
IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN:
In the name of God …We hereby proclaim the Irish Republic …
The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally…
The recent vote for the death of untold numbers of Irish children, who should be “cherished” not annihilated, was not only an attack upon Ireland’s Catholic past but also upon the Republican ideals that founded the modern Irish state.
Having negated her past, both religious and civic, now Ireland enters into the “brave new world” she seems to so ardently desire.
And so, in the distance, coming to meet her from a desert waste is a Spiritus Mundi. “This rough beast,” with its gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun, slouches towards Ireland to be born, with its hour come at last.
Photo credit: Calvary scene at Dingle, Kerry / Cahill Photography)
Gay man: Pope told me 'God made you like that'
By Delia Gallagher https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/25/world/pope-lgbt/index.html
(CNN)What does Pope Francis really think about homosexuality?
That question has been raised in recent days by two seemingly contradictory news reports.
Earlier this month, Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse in Chile who was a guest of the Vatican's in late April, says he and Pope Francis discussed more than the scandal that has roiled the church in Chile. They also discussed Cruz's sexuality. He is gay.
According to Cruz, the Pope told him, "It doesn't matter. God made you like this. God loves you like this."
The Vatican neither confirmed nor denied the Pope's words, saying they "do not normally comment on the Pope's private conversations."
On Thursday, quite different remarks, also attributed to the Pope, were reported.
The Italian news magazine Vatican Insider, as well as other Italian media outlets, reported that Francis spoke about gay men in the seminary to the Italian Bishops' Conference during a closed-door session.
According to one bishop present at the meeting, the Pope said, "If in doubt, better not let them enter." Meaning that, if someone is gay, they shouldn't study for the priesthood.
That stance puts Francis in line with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who issued a document in 2005 stating that men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" shouldn't be allowed to study for the priesthood.
Cardinal Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, confirmed to Italian media the Pope's comments.
The Vatican, once again, refused to comment on the Pope's private remarks.
OK to be gay?
The Pope's public comments on gay men and women provide at least some hints of what he really thinks.
That is, for Francis, being gay and the teaching of the Catholic Church is an "and/and" proposition.
The two realities seem to be contradictory if we consider that Francis has expressed publicly and shown in his meetings with gays and transgender persons an openness to who they are and how they live.
Yet, the official teaching of the Catholic Church on being gay is that "the homosexual inclination is objectively disordered" and same-sex couples cannot marry in the Catholic Church.
So while Francis' words and gestures sometimes seem to give the message, "It's OK that you're gay," that messages seem to be contradicted by the rules of the church he governs.
So what gives?
One interpretation is that Francis would like to change those rules but cannot, because conservative resistance is too strong.
However, we have seen Francis change rules regarding Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics despite conservative resistance. He is the Pope, and a determined one at that. He can change rules if he wants.
The fact is that Francis has given no indication that he wants to change Catholic Church teaching or rules on being gay or gay relationships.
What the catechism says
To be clear -- because this is often a confused point -- the Catholic Church distinguishes between being gay and acting on same-sex attraction. (This is sometimes called "love the sinner/hate the sin.")
About sexual activity, the Catholic catechism says: "They are contrary to the natural law ... under no circumstances can they be approved."
Even being gay, which the Catholic Church calls an "inclination," is "objectively disordered," according to the church.
Included in the catechism's teaching about gay men and women is that they "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
Finally, the Catholic Church does not come down firmly on the "nature or nurture" question; whether one is born gay or it is a choice. The catechism says, "Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained."
So how to reconcile Francis' radical openness to gay people with his church's firm position that being gay or lesbian is "disordered" and its disapproval of gay relationships?
A 'vaccine against the faith'
One answer to that question may be found in Francis' address to Catholic leaders in 2013, the year he was elected Pope. Referring to a daughter of a lesbian woman, he said, "I remember the story of a young girl who confided to her teacher that, 'my mother's girlfriend doesn't love me.'"
"The situations we find ourselves in today pose therefore new challenges that at times are difficult even for us to understand," he said.
"How do we announce Christ to a generation which changes?" the Pope asked. "We need to be careful not to administer to them a vaccine against the faith," Francis said.
This example, and there are others in his public statements, points to the "end-game" for Francis: bringing people closer to Jesus Christ.
His approach is radically pastoral, not doctrinal; it is one of "accompaniment" as he often says.
"I have accompanied people with homosexual tendencies and also with homosexual practices," Francis said during an in-flight press conference returning from Azerbaijan in October, 2016.
"People must be accompanied, as Jesus accompanied," he continued. "When a person in this situation comes before Jesus, Jesus will surely not say, 'Go away because you are homosexual.'"
An 'and/and' proposition
The Pope's approach has been criticized by both the right and the left.
Conservatives say that accompanying gay men and women should include a correction of their lifestyle; progressives say Francis' accompaniment should include a change in doctrine.
The Pope, it seems, is happy to hold the two in tension.
His words and the teaching of his Church are an "and/and" proposition: God loves you, the Church welcomes you AND we think this is the best way to live.
For some, this is a contradiction and creates confusion about church policies.
But for Francis, it seems increasingly clear that the person comes before the policy. And keeping hearts open to Jesus comes before all else.
1 John 5:3
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments
Neither do I condemn you, “Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."